Blue Dogs Push to Hold China Accountable for Illicit Fentanyl Shipments

May 17, 2019 by Dan McCue

The Blue Dog Coalition has endorsed H.R. 2483, also known as the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which aims to pressure the Chinese government to honor its commitment to make all forms of fentanyl illegal and provide the United States with more tools and resources to go after illicit traffickers.

The bipartisan bill was introduced in the House by two of the coalition’s newest members, Representatives Max Rose, D-N.Y.,

Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y, in addition to Republicans French Hill, R-Ariz., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

The companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ariz., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

“We know the majority of fentanyl that’s killing our children is coming from China, and they need to be held accountable,” said Representative Rose, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of House Democrats that focuses on issues related to fiscal responsibility and national security.

“I commend the President for getting them to crack down on fentanyl production, but I don’t trust a damn thing China says. We need action, and given the broad and growing support, I’m hopeful that we’ll get this done,” Rose said.

“The opioid crisis, and fentanyl in particular, is ravaging our communities and ripping apart families,” said Representative Brindisi Blue Dog co-chair for whip. “This bipartisan bill will get tough on China and hold the bad actors accountable. This is a no-brainer for anyone who is serious about stopping the opioid epidemic and getting tough on illegal, deadly drugs.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approved for use as a painkiller and anesthetic. It is 50 times more potent than heroin.

In 2013, synthetic opioid deaths – primarily driven by illicit fentanyl – began to spike, further worsening the opioid epidemic. From 2013 to 2016, drug overdoses involving synthetic opioids increased by about 113 percent each year.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, foreign-sourced fentanyl is being trafficked into the U.S. primarily from China and Mexico.

Recently, a “60 Minutes” report revealed how the Chinese synthetic opioid industry has been able to funnel illicit fentanyl into the U.S., fueling a fentanyl epidemic.

In 2017, over 70,000 Americans died of a drug overdose, the majority of which involved opioids. That same year, foreign-sourced fentanyl and fentanyl-related compounds killed more Americans than all other illicit drugs.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Require imposition of sanctions on drug manufacturers in China who knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers, transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S. and financial institutions that assist such entities.
  • Authorize new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Department of Defense and Department of State, to combat the foreign trafficking of opioids.
  • Urges the President to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign opioid traffickers.
  • Establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.

Following a commitment to the U.S. at the G-20 in December 2018, Chinese regulators announced on April 1, 2019, that a wider range of fentanyl derivatives would be declared controlled substances in China on May 1, 2019.

China already has problems enforcing its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are a major source of illicit opioids contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis.

To ensure accountability, the sanctions legislation would pressure the Chinese government to move forward with an aggressive plan to enforce its announced new laws and provide the U.S. executive branch with flexible new sanction tools to go after actors, from manufacturers to traffickers, in China and other countries.

Producers and traffickers of synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol, in India, Mexico and other countries present serious threats to the U.S. opioid crisis that could be addressed with precision sanctions.

“It’s a fact that if the Chinese government wanted to shut down the synthetic opioid industry, it could have done so years ago,” said Representative Lou Correa, D-Calif., Blue Dog co-chair for communications. “We cannot ignore the fact that for years China has actively decided to do nothing to prevent its citizens from shipping illicit fentanyl into the United States and profiting off of it, all while fueling the opioid epidemic and killing an already vulnerable population. As Blue Dogs, we believe in a strong national security for our country, and that’s why we endorsed this legislation. Because we need to send a clear signal to China that if they don’t take real action, there will be severe consequences.”

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